Employer has a right to know criminal history

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Perhaps it’s laudable when a business makes a concerted effort to make a job available to someone with a criminal record. But in typically short-sighted fashion, a new bill at the State Capitol that that gesture in precisely the wrong direction by making it a matter of law that Colorado businesses cannot ask job applicants in their initial application if they have a criminal record. The bill also makes a one-size-fits-all decision for the vast majority of businesses that they cannot decide for themselves which jobs will not be offered to those with a criminal history. 

House Bill 1388, sponsored by the usually thoughtful and practical Rep. Beth McCann (D-Denver), is particularly ill-advised in light of recent events.

Just last month, Cedric L. Ford killed three people and wounded 14 others in a violent rampage at Excel Industries, the Hesston, Kansas, factory where he was employed.

According to KMBC-TV, Ford had felony convictions in two states. His rap sheet included burglary, grand theft, illegally carrying a concealed weapon, domestic violence, felony battery, disorderly conduct, drunken driving, and obstruction of justice.

In 2008, Ford completed an anger-management class after his conviction for disorderly conduct. About 90 minutes before his attack on his co-workers, he had been served with a restraining order because an ex-girlfriend stated Ford had choked her and she believed he would attack her again.

It’s not clear whether Ford’s employer knew about his criminal history, but what should be painfully obvious is that the employer had a right to know.

HB 1388 would, with limited exceptions, make it illegal for employers to ask potential employees about their criminal record on employment applications or from stating that someone with a criminal history cannot apply for a certain position.

While well-intentioned, the bill is fatally flawed in at least two respects:

  • First, when an employer has a job to offer, it is the employer’s sole prerogative. That job does not belong to a prospective employee and certainly not to Colorado state government. An employee can walk away from the job without notice, and if the business fails, the employee is not financially responsible. Responsibility for the business lies with the employer, whether it succeeds or fails. Thus, the job, by right and by logic, belongs to the employer. 
  • Second, employees reasonably expect that their employer will take reasonable precautions to ensure their safety, whether that means keeping the facility and equipment in good repair or making prudent decisions about people whether potentially dangerous people will be added to the workforce. 

Because it focuses solely on placing people with a criminal record in a job, HB 1388 ignores the rights and responsibilities of employers to their other employees and for their business.


Salazar bill treats oil & gas like hazardous waste

Monday, March 14, 2016

Rep. Joe Salazar (D-Thornton) is at it again – marrying his disdain for jobs created by Colorado’s energy industry with his penchant for enriching trial lawyers, one of which he just happens to be.

Salazar’s House Bill 1310 would hang a “SUE ME” sign on the back of Colorado oil and gas companies, decreeing by legislative fiat that energy exploration is responsible for earthquakes that occur in the Centennial State.

HB 1310 would make oil and gas operators subject to strict liability – also known as “liability without fault” – for earthquakes, inviting plaintiffs lawyers to troll for clients who claim their property was damaged by seismic activity. The only proof required is a determination that “oil and gas operations occurred within an area that has . . . experienced” frequent earthquakes.

As a result, oil and gas companies would be required to prove their innocence – to prove that they did not cause seismic activity. (Next, perhaps Salazar will suggest that energy companies be blamed for “climate change” and be held strictly liable for hailstorms, tornadoes, blizzards and drought.)

“Colorado courts have rejected applying this extreme strict liability standard even to activities such as selling gasoline in a paper cup or dumping highly caustic chemicals at a landfill,” explained Colorado Civil Justice League president Lee Mickus, who testified to the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee.

“Existing law already allows plaintiffs to bring claims for personal injury and property damage arising from oil and gas operations,” he continued. But under current law, plaintiffs must prove that oil and gas operations caused the damage; Salazar’s bill would reverse that burden of proof, stacking the deck for plaintiffs and their lawyers.

HB 1310 passed out of the committee on a 7-6 party-line vote with Democratic Reps. Janet Buckner (Aurora), Daneya Esgar (Pueblo), Susan Lontine (Denver) , Dianne Primavera (Broomfield), Sue Ryden (Aurora), Joann Ginal (Fort Collins) and chair Beth McCann (Denver) voting with Salazar, Republican Reps. J. Paul Brown (Durango), Steve Humphrey (Severance), Janik Joshi (Colorado Springs), Gordon Klingenschmitt (Colorado Springs), Lois Landgraf (Fountain) and Kim Ransom (Littleton) voted against the bill.


Committee strips liability protection from 'unrepresented patients' bill

Monday, March 07, 2016

A bill to change the way doctors and hospitals determine treatment for "unrepresented patients" could actually delay treatment and subject health care providers to the threat of greater liability.

As introduced, House Bill 1101 (by Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley) created a cumbersome process for determining treatment for patients for whom to responsible family member or close friend could be found to make health care decisions. The bill originally extended liability protections to physicians who, acting in good faith, make treatment decisions for such a patient.

However, the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee stripped those protections out of the bill before passing it to the full House on a party-line vote.

As a result, CCJL members voted to OPPOSE HB 1101.